Obama's Catholic Backers; Supporting Pop Culture over Church Teaching

Article excerpt


The elections weigh heavily on the hearts of America's Catholic bishops who gathered in Baltimore last week for their annual meeting. Not only do the bishops remain conflicted about how to contend with pro-choice politicians -a topic on their agenda - but they are also conflicted with their own Catholic colleges and professors, who played a vital role in turning the Catholic vote to Barack Obama.

Despite the Catholic bishops' clear disapproval of Mr. Obama's support for abortion rights - including his pledge to sign the Freedom of Choice Act - which would nullify state restrictions on abortions - many Catholics were persuaded that they could vote for Mr. Obama in good conscience. Exit polls show that he won over self-described Catholics 54 percent to 45 percent, better than the 52-46 split among all Americans. He even made inroads with Mass-attending and white, non-Hispanic Catholics.

For that, Mr. Obama has liberal Catholic professors and Catholic colleges to thank. It was Catholic academics who made the argument for Mr. Obama in the media and in lectures to Catholic audiences. Vocal Obama supporters include Pepperdine law professor Douglas Kmiec, a former dean of the Catholic University of America law school; Boston College theology professor Lisa Sowle Cahill; Duquesne law professor Nicholas Cafardi (former dean of Duquesne's law school); Notre Dame theology professor Cathleen Kaveny; and a St. Peter's College humanities professor, Jesuit Rev. Raymond Schroth.

The argument: that Mr. Obama will do more than John McCain to reduce abortions by fighting poverty, reforming health care and otherwise helping Americans in need. Mr. Cafardi has gone so far as to claim that we have lost the abortion battle, permanently and therefore Catholics should not be swayed by Mr. McCain's opposition to Roe v. Wade.

In publications ranging from Newsweek to the National Catholic Reporter, the professors openly attacked several bishops for proclaiming Catholic teaching that the right to life - including legal protections for innocent human beings - is a priority over other serious issues like the economy and health care. Mr. Kmiec accused the bishops of low partisanship for urging Catholics to vote in conformity to their faith. Mrs. Cahill blamed the church's shepherds for damaging [the] rich Catholic faith tradition and lamented a dearth of pastoral leadership among bishops appointed by the late Pope John Paul II.

Throughout the campaign, several Catholic colleges and universities - including Mount Mercy College and St. Ambrose University in Iowa, St. Louis University in Missouri and Villanova University in Pennsylvania - hosted political rallies and stump speeches on their campuses. …